For most people, Santiago is just a stopover to get to other places in Chile - like Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, or Easter Island. We think it’s totally worth spending a few days here on either end of your trip. Santiago looks like a giant Latin American city from the outside, but it’s an artists’ city on the inside, heavily influenced by famous Chilean artists like the Pablo Neruda and the country's recent somber past. You'll find this artistic energy in the form of wild street murals, eccentric neighborhoods, and innovative culinary experiences. In the past few years, a handful of design hotels and amazing restaurants have opened – a sign that even more interesting things are on the way.
Some things to know before you get in planning mode….
Best Time To Visit. Since Chile is in the southern hemisphere, their seasons are the reverse of the United States, meaning our winter is actually summertime for them. The best time to visit Santiago is January through March.
Costs. We were surprised to find prices in Chile similar to those in the U.S. despite its proximity to countries like Argentina and Peru where the U.S. dollar is a lot stronger.
This travel guide has our favorite spots to wander, eat and drink in Santiago de Chile. Use the table of contents to jump around!
table of contents
getting here & around
Getting here. Unless you're coming from a neighboring country, your only option is to take an international flight to Santiago. We were lucky enough to find a mistake fare through Scott’s Cheap Flights for only USD$170 round trip from Washington, DC! Normal prices are around USD$1,000 from most major U.S. cities.
Getting around. Within Santiago we relied on our feet - walking from neighborhood to neighborhood using offline Google Maps to guide us. For longer distances we used Uber. From the airport to the center of Santiago an Uber will cost around USD$12-15. Uber is still relatively new to the city and drivers have had some trouble with local police, so many will ask you to sit in the front seat instead of the back to minimize suspicion. That said, Uber is definitely safer than taxis or the bus.
Hotels in Santiago can be hit or miss. Some hotels market themselves as design hotels but are actually outdated and just an overall poor experience. We have two favorite design hotels in Santiago:
Huérfanos 539 (El Centro) | Website
Hotel Magnolia is a stunning design hotel that recently opened in Santiago. This boutique hotel has been featured in many architectural magazines because of its interior – if you’re a design geek, this is where you’re staying. The lounge areas, the restaurant and the bar on the ground floor are so deliciously decorated that you’ll have to force yourself to leave the hotel and explore Santiago. While the interior feels modern, if you look closely you’ll notice elements like stonework, wooden beams, and entryway tile that were all salvaged and repurposed from the original building, an old Santiago mansion. You’ve got the essentials in your room - an insanely comfy bed and an espresso machine (what else could you possibly need?). Rates start at about US$175/night (a steal if you ask us). Wifi & breakfast included.
Hotel Altiplanico Bellas Artes
Santo Domingo 526 (near Bellas Artes) | Website
Hotel Altiplanico is a minimalist, design-focused hotel near Santiago's Bellas Artes museum. There aren’t a ton of amenities, but it’s the perfect budget option for the fashion-forward traveler. We love room 406 if you can request it – it’s spacious with an adorable balcony and a view of the gorgeous Bellas Artes building. Perk: you’ve got a Nespresso machine in your room. Rates start at about US$130/night. Wifi & breakfast included.
#WildTerrains Tip: If you’re planning to splurge on a stay at one of our side trips below and you’re concerned about budget, we’d suggest staying here instead of Hotel Magnolia to help balance out your hotel expenses across the nights.
Traveler’s note: We rarely include a bad review in our guides, but we also stayed at a design hotel called Luciano K and we were super unimpressed. The hotel staff wasn’t very friendly, the rooms were tiny, and there were shade-less windows into the bathrooms that had zero privacy. Hopefully we can save you some trouble and cross this hotel off your list!
There are a ton of restaurants in Santiago, but separating the touristy ones from the all-stars can be a bit tough. We’ve picked out a few gems for you.
Av. Nueva Costanera 3467 (Vitacura) | Website
Foodie alert. Boragó is considered the 4th best restaurant in all of Latin America and one of the best restaurants in the world. It’s a tasting-menu-only kind of place, and it might be one of the best meals we’ve ever had. This place goes all out. Tap water? No way. Try rainwater from Patagonia. They only use fresh Chilean ingredients - some of which are so rare you can only source them a few weeks of the year, meaning the menu is constantly changing and every tasting experience is unique. Almost every dish contains some sort of leaves from Chilean land and sea plants plated like a work of art (sounds odd, but it’s actually really delicious). We loved that the chefs come out to the table to present their dishes themselves – it felt like we knew everyone in the kitchen by the end of the night. The dessert chef Laura was especially adorable and served us the most gorgeous ice cream sandwich ever covered in tiny rose petals. The best part is that after 14 courses and 7 wine pairings, we actually walked out pleasantly full but not uncomfortable. We’d go back in a heartbeat. #WildTerrains Tip: The full tasting menu experience with wine pairings set us back around USD $350 with tip. There’s a smaller tasting menu option and the wine pairing is optional if you’re not feeling like dropping that much on a meal – that said, it was probably one of the best $350 we’ve ever spent.
Av. Italia 805 (Barrio Italia) | Website
A posh restaurant found on the main street in Barrio Italia. The interior has a long, well stocked bar and plenty of seating with an adorable greenhouse in the center. There’s an outdoor patio in the back that you can also dine in if the weather’s nice. We love this place for lunch because it has reasonably priced wine and small plates to share. The highlights were the shrimp and the octopus.
Caupolicán 511 (Ñuñoa) | Website
A bohemian restaurant with a fabulous shady patio filled with locals, hanging plants and mismatched chairs. It was one of the few restaurants opened on Sundays, so we popped in for brunch and we were so pleasantly surprised we couldn’t stop talking about it the rest of the day. We were the only non-locals in a packed restaurant. We’re not sure if they do this for dinner too, but the brunch menu was a set price (around US$18) for a fresh-squeezed juice, a massive platter of delicious homemade organic food, and a small plate of creative desserts. The chef was in the kitchen whipping up plate after plate. We love supporting small local businesses when we travel. Please go here if you can!
Pamplona 78 (Vitacura) | Website
Ambrosia is a bit far from the center of things, but easy to get to with an Uber. The restaurant is actually in a house with romantic gardens and vibrant interiors that make it feel like you’re in Alice In Wonderland. Ambrosia is a much more casual experience than Boragó, with much lower prices to match. That said, it’s still considered the 20th best restaurant in Latin America and is one of the only best restaurants with a female head chef. We found the service to be a bit lacking after Boragó, but we think if you go in with that expectation it won’t bother you at all.
#WildTerrains Tip: We’re not sure if items on the menu rotate in and out, but when we were there they had a 10 oz. wagyu steak on the menu for only US$23. It’s the cheapest wagyu you’ll ever have and it was delicious.
Andrés de Fuenzalida 99 (Providencia) | Website
Another creative tasting menu for you - this time with a masculine edge. This laid-back, chic restaurant feels like you've stepped into a Brooklyn kitchen. The menu changed frequently so it's unlikely you'll see the same dishes we ate, but we loved their modern take on french onion soup (photo above) and the tiny beef cheek sliders. The alcohol pairing was unique - focusing on unusual sour wines and fancy ciders.
Mallinkrodt 170 (Bellavista) | Website
Hipsters rejoice. We've found a gorgeous outdoor garden filled with food trucks, craft beer, cocktails and live music. Great space for making friends while sitting at communal tables.
Bocanáriz Wine Bar
José Victorino Lastarria 276 (Lastarria) | Website
A popular wine bar that’s made all the guidebooks, but with good reason. Locals still come here, too.
Chucre Manzur 2 (Providencia) | Website
Right down the street from La Chascona. Take the elevator at the street level up six floors to the rooftop bar called Matilde. A great place to chat about what you saw at La Chascona over a cocktail or a glass of wine with a great view.
W Hotel Rooftop Bar
Isidora Goyenechea 3000 (Las Condes) | Website
It's just a W hotel so it's nothing crazy to write home about, but this rooftop has one of the best views of Santiago. Come for one drink at sunset and then move on with your night.
Always our favorite section here at Wild Terrains. Great coffee is hard to come by in Santiago, but you know we found your best bets.
Inside La Vega Central (entrance by Dávila Baeza) | Website
Café Altura is a little mobile stand that is stationed in the very back of La Vega market. The friendly guys at this stand make a mean espresso. Stand at the counter and drink your coffee while practicing your Spanish with them.
#WildTerrains Tip: Pop over to the paleta (popsicle) stand right next door after you finish your coffee for a palette-cleansing and super refreshing popsicle.
Merced 307 (Lastarria) | Website
A tiny green coffeeshop in Lastarria. Great cold brew and super friendly baristas.
Don Carlos 3185 (Las Condes) | Website
Cafetín is a modern coffeeshop with a large outdoor space, plenty of tables, and strong coffee game. They’re known for their cold brew that comes in a mason jar with orange slices, though they were out of cold brew when we visited.
Fernando Márquez de La Plata 0192 (Providencia) | Website
La Chascona is one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses that are now part of the Pablo Neruda Foundation. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but the inside is a fascinating maze of rooms that show what his life was like. He was a collector of interesting objects from his travels all over the world, many of which are on display here. There’s a ten minute video at the beginning that gives you background on Neruda and Chilean history as it relates to him. After the video, you can do a self-guided tour with an audio set that will guide you through each room. His two bars and his writing study are the highlights.
#WildTerrains Tip: After the tour head down the street to Jardin Mallinkit (see nosh) or Matilde (see sip).
Palacio de La Moneda
Moneda S/N (Metropolitana) | Website
There isn't a ton to see here but it's an important building since it houses the offices of the President of Chile. Interestingly, the building was originally used as a coin mint (which is what La Moneda translates to). This is also where Pinochet's military coup d’etat against then-president Salvador Allende happened in 1973. You can tour the facilities but you have to make a reservation at least one week in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is the beautiful main square of Santiago. You'll find many locals hanging out on the benches in the park. It's a great place to get a sense for the local urban life here.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Ismael Valdés Vergara (Metropolitana) | Website
Have a rainy day to kill in Santiago? There's no better way to spend it than in the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (also known as Museo Bellas Artes). The stunning building is filled with some of the most important Chilean artwork. Closed Mondays.
Santa Lucía Hill
A small hill in the center of Santiago that was home to historic forts and castles is now a park that you can climb all around. You'll find gorgeous panoramic views at the top of the hill.
Wander the markets
Santiago has two famous markets: Mercado Central and La Vega Central. Mercado Central is one of the worlds best fish markets. It’s definitely smelly and a tad touristy, but a cool experience to walk through. Once you’ve done that, walk across the bridge to La Vega – a giant market filled with locals, produce, food stalls, and more. Wander through the stalls to get a sense for how locals shop and maybe plop down at a food stall to try some authentic Chilean dishes. After you’re done, wander all the way to the back of La Vega to Café Altura (see caffeinate) for a much-deserved refuel.
side trips from Santiago
Two of our favorite side trips from Santiago are Patagonia and Chilean wine country. Read more about our favorite Chile travel experiences here: